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  • Writer's pictureEmma Coyle

"We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented" - Christof, 'The Truman Show'

Yesterday I got to thinking how our current way of living may leave us feeling we are living in a warped 2020 version of 'The Truman Show'.

For those not so familiar with the film, in it Jim Carrey plays Truman, the protagonist in a reality show fabricated about his life. The thing is that Truman does not know he is on a reality show, instead believing it IS his life.

What's happening to us at the moment can at times feel totally unreal, totally unbelievable, just like another plot devised by the Producer Christof (as played by Ed Harris in the film) to boost ratings.

As I see it there are also some helpful messages to takeaway from 'The Truman Show' ones that may help us think differently about our own lives.


"It isn't always Shakespeare, but it's genuine"

In the first scene, Christof talks about how people have become "bored with watching actors give us phony emotions." The world Truman inhabits is, (unbeknown to him), as 'fake' as you can get but Truman himself stands for everything that is real and genuine in the world.

One of the things that has come out of the pandemic is the need to return to a more authentic way of being. People have used this as an opportunity to take stock of their lives and really start to prioritise that which is most important to them. For many this has meant realising the value of human connection, of relationships with family and friends.

Let's all of us be more like Truman in this regard.


Like the viewers of 'The Truman Show', there is a voyeuristic quality to the way in which we have watched events relating to the pandemic unfold on a daily basis. We sit there and watch Boris deliver his Press Briefings in much the same way as 'The Truman Show' viewers tune into TruTalk, a show within a show that offers a space to discuss issues and analyse recent events. This helps raise our awareness of what is going on in the 'wider' world outside of our own four walls by helping keep us 'tuned in' to events. We also get this through live reports and round the clock coverage on the news which comes to us in so many different formats now. In fact we are bamboozled by it.

Just as some viewers of 'The Truman Show' even leave it on all night, supposedly 'for comfort,' some of us feel completely unable to separate ourselves from the news, from social media, even for a minute. So great is our need to know what is going on, so great is our fear of missing out. But we have learned that this is not necessary, in fact sometimes it can do more harm than good, increasing our anxieties and leaving us feeling the very opposite of 'connected'.

We know that we need to be able to 'switch off,' to give ourselves a break from it and just be. That way we may really find ourselves again. Truman doesn't know he is trapped in this 'nightmare' but we do AND we have the power to do something about it.


Our experience of the past few weeks as a result of the pandemic has been very disorientating, just like 'The Truman Show' which is simultaneously a documentary, a reality TV show and an advertising platform all at the same time.

We have been given so many conflicting explanations and stories that we may end up questioning what's real and what's not. Who should we believe? The media has played on our fears and undoubtedly fuelled the levels of anxiety we are feeling right now, such is its power.

Lack of Privacy:

"For me, there is no difference between a private life and a public life" - Truman's wife Meryl Burbank, played by Hannah Gill, played by Laura Linney(!)

It's not just mainstream media we are dealing with here. With the proliferation of social media, each of us has the ability to broadcast our own life’s events, however trivial or mundane, through live streaming and Facebook and Instagram posts. Our lives have truly been laid bare for the entertainment of others. But the difference is that there is no Christof in this production. We are doing it to ourselves.

Some people may be happy to do this but others are not. We need to take back control for ourselves and make the choices that are right for us. If that means switching off the news or staying off social media, do it.

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